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Sacramento Bee Accused of Mangling the Facts About Fish Caught in Pumps
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By News
Published 1 month ago on
April 23, 2024

The Sacramento Bee' recently scrutinized federal and California agencies over potential kills of endangered salmon and steelhead. Environmental law attorney Paul S. Weiland say the article was skewed by omissions and misrepresentations. (Shutterstock)

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The Sacramento Bee’s “Reality Check” series recently published an article accusing California water agencies of breaking their own rules and potentially killing thousands of endangered fish. However, the article is being criticized for misrepresenting and omitting pertinent facts.

According to Paul S. Weiland, the article falsely claims that over 3,000 winter-run Chinook salmon and nearly 3,000 steelhead were caught by federal and state water pumps between December and March. Weiland points out that a significant proportion of these fish, referred to as “salvaged” actually survive and are transported downstream to continue their migration.

“Scientific research indicates that salmon and steelhead salvaged at the pumps and released downstream are more likely to survive as they emigrate to the ocean than those that approach the intake facilities but are not entrained there and must then brave a gauntlet of invasive predatory fishes and swim through greatly degraded Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta habitat,” Weiland points out.

The article also inaccurately states that the number of fish captured is “well beyond the agencies’ own ceiling for permissible fish harm under the Endangered Species Act.,” writes Weiland, who is an environmental law attorney and formerly worked in the Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. He clarifies that the agencies establish an “anticipated level of take” or “maximum anticipated annual incidental take level,” not a “ceiling.”

If the number of fish captured exceeds this level, additional consultation is required. However, it is not a violation of the rules, Weiland states.

Weiland calls for more responsible news coverage on California water policy, emphasizing that false and misleading coverage is detrimental to public interest and policymaking.

Read more at California Water Center.

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